Symposium in Nicosia discusses ways to combat counterfeit medicines

The European network of Official Medicines Control Laboratories has highlighted how new analytical techniques will support national authorities, such as health government agencies, customs, police and courts, in the fight against falsified medicines in Europe and globally.

Discussions took place at the “Combating Counterfeit and Other Illegal Medicines” Symposium co-organised by the network of Official Medicines Control Laboratories (OMCLs) with the State General Laboratory of Cyprus, under the Chairmanship by Cyprus of the Council of Europe.

More than 95 participants, including competent authorities, customs and police from 27 countries, gathered in Nicosia on 28-29 March. The Symposium was part of the regular activities of the Network of OMCLs, which is composed of 71 public laboratories across Europe and is coordinated by the EDQM to foster efficient co-operation and facilitate information exchanges and sharing of best practices.

According to a press release issued by the Council of Europe, discussions focused on how the OMCLs can develop their technical competence in the physicochemical and biological analysis of falsified medicinal products.

According to statistics from customs authorities in the European Union (EU), the number of falsified medic in all products seized at the borders of the EU accounted for 8% of all seized materials in 2014.

At the Symposium, Popi Kanari, the Director of the State General Laboratory of the Republic of Cyprus, highlighted the value of the legal framework provided by the Council of Europe’s activities aimed at combating falsified medicinal products.

Kanari explained that the work done within the OMCL network is of the utmost importance for the protection of patients across the continent, as it enables the detection of sub-standard or counterfeit medicinal products. She recalled that “The Council of Europe’s Medicrime Convention is left intentionally open for signature to non-member states of the Council of Europe, as a way of combating the problem through a global approach,” and stressed the need to have more countries joining it.

Michael Wierer, Head of the Biological Standardisation and OMCL Network Division at the EDQM, was also speaking at the Symposium in Cyprus and explained that there has been a significant shift in the day-to-day work carried out by OMCLs in recent years.

“We have been moving from solely performing planned market surveillance testing of authorised medicines towards becoming more involved in the daily analysis of suspected falsified and illegal medicines on behalf of various authorities,” Wierer stated, adding that this mission requires a wide variety of analytical techniques for screening unknown products.

The current priorities of the EDQM in relation to the Medicrime Convention were broadly supported by the Symposium in Cyprus too. They cover:

encouraging countries to make the best use of the global framework provided by the Medicrime Convention for harmonising national criminal law and legal instruments for the prosecution of pharmaceutical crimes on a global scale;

the transfer of know-how and best practices among national health and law enforcement agencies (police and customs) through tailored training programmes; and

the coordination of existing resources and expertise across European member states for the physicochemical and biological analysis of falsified medical products, through the Network of Official Medicines Control Laboratories (OMCLs).

Source: Cyprus News Agency